Opinion piece By Gary de Menezes, Country Manager Southern Africa, NetApp

What if IoT was just a catch-all term for ways of using machine-generated data to “create something useful”? For example, a bus tells my bus stop and my phone how far away it is; and my local cycle-hire station tells me how many bikes are available . . .

In 2014, global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC) asked 400 C-suite professionals what they thought the Internet of Things (IoT) was. The answers ranged from types of devices – thermostats, cars, home security systems – to challenges, including security, data management and connectivity. The same group also highlighted that the worldwide market for IoT solutions would grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.

This optimism is supported by research and advisory firm Gartner’s estimates: 4.9 billion connected “things” will be in use in 2015. In 2020, there will be 25 billion. Gartner also estimates that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020.

In other words: The Internet of Things is extremely diverse and its potential is huge. And its value is not just in the cost of sensors – it is much more than that.

When “Things” start talking

The IoT is not something that exists in isolation and it is maturing alongside big data. Equipping billions of objects with sensors is of limited value if it is not possible to generate, transmit, store and analyse billions of data streams.

The data scientist is the human choreographer of this IoT. They are essential to identify the value of the enormous amount of data all of these devices generate. This is the reason connectivity and storage is so important. In isolation, small devices with no storage and little processing power do not tell us much. Only looking across large collections of data to discover correlations makes it possible to spot trends and make predictions.

In every business environment, the scenario is identical: CxOs will correlate the information that is happening today in the enterprise data centres with the information that has happened in the past, to gain predictable insight into what may happen in the future.

Faster insights and competitive advantage

Now, CxOs want a different kind of business. They want it to be fast-paced and market-responsive, but they also want to make decisions based on the intelligence gathered through big data; and they want to create best-in-class products based on customer insights. Companies are looking for a disruptive business model which allows them to be increasingly responsive to trends in the market, zooming ahead of competition.

The answer lies in this question to large businesses: “Why can’t enterprises act more like a start-up?” This is not about making rushed decisions with little or no insight. It is about adopting a lean business model that allows for uncertainty and stretched budgets. And, most importantly, it is about how the company’s management builds a culture of agility.

The organisations that will win in the big data game are not the ones who have most or the best access to it. The winners clearly define their goals, create necessary operational boundaries and establish the set of tools needed to get the job done.

Having recognised the business value of IT, CxOs want CIOs to take more of a leadership role and chart the company or organisation’s future. IT can play a huge role in building that future, by partnering with the business to provide the tools needed to be productive. Technology can facilitate continual innovation at every level, allowing the business to thrive, where others may merely survive.

Achieving this vision of tomorrow’s business is no easy feat. But partnering with technology makes it much more attainable, enabling businesses to move towards a nimble, innovative, data-driven future.

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